Despite the frankly hideous cover, and these can serioulsy put a reader off, I loved this book. Seriously 100% loved this book. Catherine O’Flynn’s debut ‘What Was Lost’ is frankly a wonderful book. The Guardian awarded it debut of the year and it was long listed for both the Orange Prize and the Man Booker Prize. This and the praise from several authors such as Susan Hill and bloggers like Dovegreyreader means that when you start it you either know you are on to a good thing or you are going to be heavily disappointed. I must join the queue of people who will be raving about this book for a long time to come.
The book is set in Green Oaks Shopping Centre in two separate times, the first in 1984 when ‘young detective’ Kate Meaney and her sidekick Mickey a craft kit cuddly toy hide around the centre looking for people who might be criminals on every corner. She then goes missing. In 2003 we join Lisa, an unhappy music store manager and Kurt an unhappy security guard in Green Oaks. How do the two intertwine? Who is the mystery girl seen wandering on the security footage at night? Will anyone ever know what happened to Kate?
I loved the character of Kate so much; I thought O’Flynn got into the mind of a ten year old perfectly. At first I didn’t realise that she was a young girl until on the way to a stake out she buys a copy of ‘the Beano’. O’Flynn writes with humour and in such a way I couldn’t stop reading Kate’s part of the story for lines such as “Kate ate the burger and perused the first Beano of the new year, while Mickey kept a steady eye on some suspicious teenagers below”. She’s one of my favourite characters to read in a long time, and I was saddened when I knew that her part of the book had ended.
Another thing that I loved about this book was both its humour and its serious sides. You could read lines like ‘anyone who asked for chocolate limes was a killer’ and yet this book also deals with a missing girl, depression and even suicide. While you are not taken into the mind of a killer which stops this book short of being a crime novel, it is still a mystery novel.
Some people have said the ends tie up too nicely, and in some ways they do but with a point and a purpose. I won’t spoil it; you need to read this book first hand to experience it yourselves. Catherine O’Flynn has created a world that is believable, she was a market researcher and worked in retail so there is a slight consumerism side to the novel, and crafted some wonderful characters. I cannot wait for her next novel she is a voice to be watched.